Archive | June, 2012

One of hardest cries I’ve ever had in my life…

A Reflection on Departing.  March 2004, by Lilian Kennedy, AFS LA to AUSTRIA

Lilian Kennedy

"Give me back my AFS people, my memories, my heart."


I had to leave Austria July 9th (my host mom’s birthday).  It was one of the most sad and painful parts of my exchange.

Every single person was crying.  Every single one.

Guys, girls, counselors, families, everyone.   I think that was one of hardest cries I’ve ever had in my life, the tears just would not stop and I hugged my host sis and dad so so hard, I didn’t want to let go.

I knew in heart that it was time for me to go home, but it was just so hard to let go, to just leave behind this life and all the people in it.  The night before I had said goodbye to a lot of my friends, including my two best ones, Kathi and Simi, and we cried so hard too.  It was so painful.

Lilian Kennedy, Austria, AFS

Lilian Kennedy, Austria, AFS


I felt mad at AFS, like I wanted to kick and scream and scratch it.

In the brochures and information packets the exchange was described as this amazing experience, all smiles and wonderfulness.  It was almost like I was lied to.  I never got a real warning for this pain, the leaving part.  No one told me how your exchange claims a part of your heart and never lets go.  Or how badly it hurts when you had to leave the home of that part of your heart.

And now, I am so glad.

A lot of people are afraid of emotional pain and risk; Austria and my exchange cured me.  I don’t know if my pre-exchange self would have done my exchange if I had known what was in store for me those six months.  I don’t know if my pre-exchange self could have comprehended the times of just incredible and surreal beauty either though.

Those moments were so pristine and transcending I will never forget them, or could ever forget them.

Flag of Japan

This place is different, and therefore, so cool!



From the jet lag and with the time difference, I was wide awake very early in the morning.  Couldn’t wait to get out and explore my new world.  The house, the neighborhood, and what was around the corner, on the horizon?

I was excited as my surroundings were completely different to what I had known until then.  One of the things that left an impression initially was the difference in the size and design of the homes, the look and feel of the town, and the shopping experience.  Especially supermarkets.

Japan has some very bizarre things that would seem weird by American standards.  A friend and I nicknamed them “bugs and tentacles”.  There are literally octopus parts packaged in those flimsy white Styrofoam plates in clear plastic wrap like we have with hamburger and steaks.  And whole fish packaged the same.



Who in their right mind would buy a salmon as it looks when a bear drags it out of the river, guts, eyes, and head intact?

(Note: now when I visit the States, though, I am appalled by all the disgusting crap that Americans eat, all that processed and junk food.  YUCK.  No wonder obesity is a serious issue.)

My first impression?  Wow!  This is place is different, and therefore, so cool!

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Hungarian Music Scene

American musicals like Grease and Hair were very popular and were played a lot in bars and clubs, along with the Doors, the Beatles…etc.  There was a divide in the youth culture — there were the people that listened to the Doors and the people who listed to Madonna.  I was in with the Doors crowd.

We also liked a local band called Kis Pal and went to concerts.  There was also a band called $Texas we went to see — a Hungarian jazz band had traveled to Texas and were inspired by the place.

Everyone there seemed to play an instrument.  Whenever we would get together with our friends, someone would have a guitar and we would all sing together.  Sometimes we went around singing to people at their houses — not at Christmas, we would just do it for fun on a Thursday night!

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